A New Jersey woman was arrested after New York authorities discovered she had 15,000 rainbow-colored fentanyl pills inside a lego box, with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency calling it the largest fentanyl seizure to date in New York City.
According to a Tuesday DEA news release, the 48-year-old suspect, Latesha Bush, was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday. A criminal complaint filed by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor (SNP) charges Bush with one count of first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and one count of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Bush’s bail is set at $25,000 and $150,000 insurance company bond, and a $100,000 partially secured surety bond, the DEA said.
New York police officers investigating suspected narcotics trafficking reportedly observed the middle-aged woman enter a vehicle in Manhattan with a large black tote bag. The officers stopped the vehicle and found two black tote bags and a Lego container in the back seat with several brick-shaped packages inside.
One of the packages was partially opened, revealing the rainbow-colored fentanyl pills, with the other packages containing the same. Preliminary testing revealed that approximately 15,000 pills, imprinted with “M” and “30” to resemble Oxycodone pills, contained fentanyl.
“Disguising fentanyl as candy — and concealing it in children’s toys — will never hide the fact that fentanyl is a deadly poison that harms our communities, our families, and our city,” Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell said in the news release.
“The criminal complaint unsealed today is another example of the NYPD’s relentless commitment to never stop working to rid New York City of illegal drugs and I want to thank the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the city of New York, the DEA New York Division, the New York State Police, and everyone else involved in this case for their exceptional work.”
A subsequent investigation uncovered that Bush had traveled from New Jersey to Manhattan in a rental car and that the pills originated from Mexico. Investigators have noticed a connection between the case and tactics used by two Mexican drug cartels.
The Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel are reportedly coloring fentanyl to disguise it as candy or other prescription drugs and to brand their products, the DEA added.
Last week, the DEA announced the results of its One Pill Can Kill initiative, which led to the seizure of more than 10.2 million fentanyl pills and approximately 980 pounds of fentanyl powder from May 23 through Sept. 8. Out of the 390 cases investigated, 51 were linked to overdose poisonings, and 35 were connected to one or both of the Mexican cartels.
New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan called efforts to disguise fentanyl to make it appear “fun” and “harmless” a “new low, even for Mexican cartels.” The prosecutor noted that fentanyl is responsible for more than 80% of overdose deaths in the city.
“If you take any drug sold on the street or through the internet, regardless of its medicinal markings or festive appearance, you risk your life,” Brennan said.
“My office and our partners are committed to intercepting lethal fentanyl and ensuring that these rainbow-colored pills don’t lead more people down a sad path of substance use and overdose death."
Last month, the DEA issued a warning about rainbow fentanyl, alerting parents that drug traffickers have started coloring it to resemble candy to appeal to children. The agency stated that drug cartels are using this method to sell the highly addictive drug to young people.
"Rainbow fentanyl — fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes and sizes — is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults," DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said.
"The men and women of the DEA are relentlessly working to stop the trafficking of rainbow fentanyl and defeat the Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in the United States."
A study published in April by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and analyzed by Science Daily found the rate of overdose deaths among U.S. teenagers doubled in 2020 and rose another 20% in the first half of 2021.
Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.